The latest in Cycling Weekly’s Cycling Legends series of big reads is dedicated to the only American winner of the Tour de France, Greg LeMond.
LeMond won the Tour de France three times, putting him second only to the five-time winners; Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. He is also one of eight riders to have won the Tour de France and the elite world road race title in the same year.
But LeMond is not a cycling legend just because of a list of achievements.
In 1986, after holding back the previous year to help his team-mate Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond won his first Tour de France; he was 25.
He’d already been the elite world road race champion once, and he’d won or contended in many of cycling’s other big races. Then, early in 1987 he was shot in a freak hunting accident. One minute he was the biggest talent in cycling, the next he was 15 minutes from death.
The story could have ended there, but LeMond made the most incredible comeback. The road he travelled was long, arduous and strewn with set-backs.
He came close to giving up, but held on, and at last, in 1989 Greg LeMond returned to the top and won the most exciting Tour de France in history. Then he won the 1989 world road race title, and the following year he won another Tour de France.
But Greg LeMond in 1989 and 1990 wasn’t the Greg LeMond of 1986. Lead pellets deemed too dangerous to remove when he was shot were leaching their poison into his system. It affected him even as he was winning.
He suffered bouts of tiredness and had to build his fitness slowly each year, but after 1990 it accelerated. LeMond lost the 1991 Tour de France when he looked like winning, and his decline was as rapid as it was frustrating after that.
At the end of 1994 LeMond left the sport, but he also left his mark on it; not just in victories, but in the changes he made. Greg LeMond was a great innovator, and a reformer, a game changer, but also an unfulfilled talent.
This big read, 148 pages of recollections from team mates, rivals and from LeMond himself, all illustrated with stunning photographs, relives the high and low points of his roller-coaster career and reflects on his place in cycling history.
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Other Cycling legends editions: Eddy Merckx, Mark Cavendish
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